The myth of normal reading
We argue that the educational and psychological sciences must embrace the diversity of reading rather than chase the phantom of normal reading behavior. We critically discuss the research practice of asking participants in experiments to read “normally”. We then draw attention to the large cross-cultural and linguistic diversity around the world and consider the enormous diversity of reading situations and goals. Finally, we observe that people bring a huge diversity of brains and experiences to the reading task. This leads to certain implications. First, there are important lessons for how to conduct psycholinguistic experiments. Second, we need to move beyond Anglo-centric reading research and produce models of reading that reflect the large cross-cultural diversity of languages and types of writing systems. Third, we must acknowledge that there are multiple ways of reading and reasons for reading, and none of them is normal or better or a “gold standard”. Finally, we must stop stigmatizing individuals who read differently and for different reasons, and there should be increased focus on teaching the ability to extract information relevant to the person’s goals. What is important is not how well people decode written language and how fast people read but what people comprehend given their own stated goals.
Publication typeJournal article